What are five rules that you have in your house about being a parent?
1. Be flexible. You don’t know how your kid is going to be, and don’t make rigid expectations for you and them. As I’ve said before, I fully expected to breastfeed and was judgmental of anyone who formula fed. Well…
2. Give lots of hugs and kisses. The one thing I’ve learned this year is that you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so be sure to love on your little one as much as you can. The day that Kellen started to kiss me back will forever be remembered as one of the most loving moments of my life.
3. Take a deep breath. The other day Kellen was SCREAMING at me in the car. He was tired, and we had just gotten done with Stroller Strides. I stopped at Starbucks, and he was screaming so loudly that they couldn’t hear my order and ended up screwing it up (it’s ok though because I gave them a dime covered in blue pen ink to which the cashier said, “I’ve never had this happen before.”) We continued driving, and I continued losing my patience. I could feel my whole body tensing and stress settling into my shoulders. I might have even screamed back out of frustration. I decided to take a deep breath, stop at Office Max, replace the pacifier, and stroke his face with his blanket. The rest of the ride continued in silence. Breathing. It’s important as a parent.
4. Watch what you say. I am not the best at this one, but I try. I have a filter problem sometimes between my head and my mouth, and I know it is going to come back to bite me. I want my kids to hear the positive and not constant criticism (which is the environment I grew up in). I also say some adult things around kids. I have often thought this isn’t as bad as it seems, but it is. I need to watch what I say (as does my husband, otherwise Kellen’s first words are going to be “Dude, what’s up?”)
5. Don’t paint yourself into a parenting box. There is a board on the forums I visit for Attachment Parenting parents, and there was a recent post about following the eight principles. That is way too dogmatic for us. I have an easy enough time feeling guilty about parenting. I don’t need to feel even guiltier because I have failed at asome of the eight principles. My take on parenting styles is much more buffet-style. I’ll take some of this, leave out some of that, and take some of this other stuff. Some of Ferber works for us. Some of AP co-sleeping also works. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
What are your Friday Five Parenting Rules?
I don’t know my left from my right. It’s a disorder. I remember sitting against the gym wall in elementary school (despite being in advanced classes) looking at the L in my left hand trying oh so hard to get into my brain which way was right and which was left. When driving with me, double check with me before following any directions!!
I don’t always think I’m a good mom. I have struggled a lot this year, and I often find myself struggling to give enough time and attention to Kellen.
I don’t watch the news (much) anymore. I realized it made my anxiety a lot worse… this coming from a poli sci major and politics junkie. I’m no longer qualified to run for office… except I do remember that we had this president once who claimed not to read the news.
I don’t like HATE nail files. It is quite possibly the worst sound (and feeling) in the world.
When Kellen first smiled at me, I couldn’t smile back.
I had Bell’s Palsy, and my face was stuck. Stuck like a car on the D.C. beltway during rush hour, inching toward its destination slowly, so so slowly.
Bell’s Palsy is a rare disorder affecting less than 200,000 people in the U.S. Something (the cause is yet to be fully understood) invades the seventh cranial nerve, and the messages that your face normally gets from your brain are intercepted and halted. Imagine trying to smile (or close your eyes) and your face doesn’t move.
So while my son’s face learned to receive and interpret the messages from his brain, mine was relearning the same thing.
While it was a difficult time for me, it was also such an interesting parallel and allowed me to think about how the brain works when Kellen was undergoing such rapid developmental changes himself. If you think about it, the fact that we exist in such complex form is really incredible. All the neurons and synapses that go into making our lips curl, our eyes blink, our nostrils flare… unbelievable, really!
It also makes me understandably nervous about my own kid’s development. If something can go so wrong in my own body after having worked for the last 20-something years, something could go wrong in the post-utero development of the brain.
What I’ve learned though is that we are all resilient. Even babies’ brains are able to re-route and form new neural connections. My face was able to regrow the nerve endings required to make it move (though I do have a really funny thing where my bottom eyelid moves when my nostrils do). Resiliency. That’s my Tough Stuff Tuesday lesson this week.
A week ago, the local toy store was having a sale.
“Kellen doesn’t have enough toys,” I whined to my mom. “He’s B-oooo-rrrr-eee-dddd.”
Off we went to the store, where we picked up an abacus, three wooden puzzles, a really cool elephant, a sprinkler pool thing for outside (if it wasn’t so hot that I worry the water will evaporate before hitting Kellen), a truck, and a monkey that rolls around cracking up (well, that was more for us).
Those toys entertained for a whole two days before they too were old news.
So I decided to take all of his toys into our empty bedroom (Kellen’s big boy room which we are hoping to work on this fall), separate them by category, and create a basket for each day of the week so we could rotate his toys throughout the week.
And this is what happened.
I had the toys categorized as follows: books, small electronic toys, stuffed animals (that’s what looks like a tornado in the corner), large electronic toys, balls, blocks, and figurines.
Then I started putting a toy or two from each category into each day’s basket until I had this:
And today, Kellen doesn’t seem bored. I’ll let you know how it works out after a trial run this week. Each week I’ll trade out some of the toys I didn’t use the last week so that the baskets stay fresh!
When swine flu hit the U.S. I became super freaky about leaving our house. I didn’t want to get either of us exposed to it. As late spring turned into summer, I realized that our house wasn’t going to provide enough stimulation for Kellen. He was B-O-R-E-D, and the amount of screaming that occurred on a daily basis was enough to seriously consider checking myself in to the psych ward.
I started my online search for activities for myself and the bonky. A lot of the activities are for toddlers though. That’s when I remembered I had signed up for a Luna Moms/Stroller Strides Meetup. I checked out the schedule and saw that they had a class the next morning. (You can go to the playgroups without joining the actual stroller strides class.) I emailed the instructor to let her know I’d be there and to ask if I should bring anything. I’m not a fan of being the new kid, and I felt a little better knowing that at least the instructor would be expecting me.
As soon as I got to the class I recognized a teacher I had worked with the previous spring. She was a few weeks ahead of me in her pregnancy. It was good to have a familiar face in the group! The first class I attended happened to be a less intense “Stroll and Stride” class. It was good. I needed lower impact since my working out had consisted of a few Jillian Michael’s DVDs and walking in the last year.
I had planned to go back the next Wednesday (they also meet T and Th, but it’s in a different location and a lot farther away). That’s when Kellen got sick. A week and a half later, we were back, and the workout was INTENSE. It’s advertised as a power walking class, but almost everyone jogs at least some, and I always seem to be coming into the next station last. Between walking/jogging sessions, we do some kind of strength training with resistance bands, usually while singing some nurery rhyme.
For the first week or so I felt a little out of place… and a lot out of shape. But I keep going. I really enjoy the company of the other women, and I am quickly becoming able to jog without being totally out of breath. We even signed up with another group to train for a 5k (or maybe 10). If you have a Stroller Strides in your area (or other similar class) I really recommend it. It’s thrown off Kellen’s normally strict nap schedule, but it’s a small sacrifice.
The week my house burned down our birth plan was due in our Bradley birth class. I suppose that should have been an indication that things don’t always go as planned.
As our world shattered into chaos around us, I tried to hold on to my sanity so that I could deliver my baby safely and healthily into this world. I was strongly opinionated in what I didn’t want. Looking back, I’m not sure I knew what I wanted. Our birthing teacher was fairly strongly opinionated about medicated births (and even tried to allude that epidurals could cause ADHD and autism!). While I was hoping for a natural birth, my main goal was a healthy son and a healthy mom.
I wrote my birth plan anyway. I asked that I be allowed to determine if and when an epidural was appropriate and that I not be asked about it by the nursing staff. I also dictated that no forceps or vacuum be used. I was ok with the drugs, but the idea of pulling my child out seemed wrong.
And I endured several hours of constant back labor completely unmedicated. I thought I was progressing nicely until the nurse told me otherwise. It was 3 am. I had a cold. I was exhausted already, and the pushing hadn’t even started. So I talked to my team about an epidural. I wasn’t sure and was hoping that I could get to pushing before I needed one. Thirty minutes later I decided to opt in. Three attempts later, it was placed. And I was ready to push. I had about five minutes of medication before they had to turn it off. At least concentrating on the needles got me through transition.
Two hours and forty minutes later… still no baby. I was tired. It was past seven in the morning. He wasn’t even crowning. My midwife told me that it was a matter of minutes. I asked her how many minutes because there was a big difference between three and fifty nine. At that point I asked for help, and she explained the vacuum. The vacuum flung off during the first attempt, and I thought his head had popped off. Don’t ask me how I was rational enough to figure out that three was less than fifty nine and then think that my child’s head could be ripped from his neck. Before we started the vacuum I made sure that he would be birthed to the chest, and they assured me he would unless there was a problem (the NICU team was there because it was a vacuum-assisted delivery). As I pushed the second time and felt him come out, he was immediately whisked to the NICU team, and I wasn’t told what was going on. They had to cut the umbilical cord before he was delivered because it was wrapped around his neck. Fortunately I had heard him cry. I didn’t get to hold him for about ten minutes because he needed some extra help.
For a while I felt sad about my experience. It hadn’t gone the way I had planned (but really, what had that fall?). I felt bad for having to ask for help. But I didn’t have anything to feel bad about. The outcome was the same. I had a healthy baby and a healthy mom. And that’s all that matters.
*I’d love to hear what tough stuff you’ve dealt with and how you overcame it. If you post a blog entry, I’d love if you leave a link back here.*
This post might come back to bite me in the butt in two years…
I have heard moms in the last couple of weeks refer to their kids as picky eaters. It’s how they justify feeding them hot dogs. I believe in picky eaters. I just don’t believe in kids who will only eat hot dogs.
One of my very favorite cookbooks is Williams-Sonoma Family Meals. I love it because it embraces the idea of family mealtime and includes recipes that your kids can help with. In her Mac and Cheese recipe (which really is the best Mac & Cheese ever), she writes that her kids would only eat Kraft and would turn up their noses at her homemade version. So she took away the boxed stuff for a few months and reintroduced mac and cheese with her version. They loved it. She says, “If we train our kids to eat what they eat, we can untrain them too.”
Kellen doesn’t get hot dogs. It’s on the list of banned foods (that and Kraft Mac and Cheese). Although Dan can’t wait to give him a hot dog, I see no good reason to introduce them. Kellen eats what we eat… and we I don’t eat hot dogs. Kellen eats curry and chicken and pork and cantaloupe and green beans and roasted potatoes and plain yogurt. On a rare occasion he gets Earth’s Best cheerios.
One day he will get to try a hot dog. But even then, I won’t let him eat that on a routine basis just because he screams for it. I believe that we can train our children to eat healthy, to eat a variety of foods. Just remind me of that when I have a screaming child at the dinner table.
It’s been a rough day for us. Hell, it’s been a rough year for us. I love my son, really I do, but I’ve also experienced my share of depression this year and often feel overwhelmed and resentful given the circumstances. Add to this a child who has been mobile to some degree since he was two weeks with reflux who doesn’t sleep.
With all of that, the one thing I could count on was him napping. He always napped, one 2 hour nap in the morning, one two-ish hour nap in the afternoon, and occasionally a late afternoon nap.
In the last week though, sleep has not been happening for him. He knows when we walk up the stairs that it’s naptime, and he screams the whole way. If you put him in his crib, he screams harder. And when you walk away, you’d have thought something awfully terrible happened at our house. He woke up at 6:30 this morning, rubbing his eyes. I knew he was still tired, but I thought he would easily make it to his morning nap. 9:00 came and went. I had put him down, but sleep was not even being considered. 9:30 went and then 10:00. We decided to go for a drive. After 25 minutes, he was asleep, but when we came home, his big blue eyes stared back at us. Two minutes does not a nap make.
We strolled. We cribbed. He screamed. He played. He ate. We strolled. We cribbed. He screamed. I moved the crib so at least he could see out the window. He will often put himself to sleep looking at things. At 2:30, I picked him up and brought him into our room and sat with him. I can’t lie down with him because he wants to play. So he looked out the window and we played a bit. I started kissing him on the cheeks, and he started kissing back, laughing up a storm. Throughout the morning I was so upset with him. I told him (in my head) that we weren’t friends today. I even disliked him a little. But those kisses changed everything. “I love you too,” I said. He still didn’t fall asleep for a while, but it eased my frustration some. Some.